Sometimes you chance upon something through the browsing and recommendation system that Spotify offers and know within fifteen seconds of listening that the thing you've chanced upon is for you. Such was the case yesterday for me listening to the first track on Wild Pink by Wild Pink a Brooklyn based trio and their first full album, released back in February.
It's a mesh of sounds and emotions that will be familiar to you, if like me, you have a record collection peopled partly by disaffected, introspective and shambling guitar bands. The kind that wear checked shirts. I get the impression that Wild Pink probably wear checked shirts. If not, they should. The faintest shadow of The Replacements hangs over this record. Because that band were probably the ones who nailed this kind of haunted ennui first. Then came Nirvana, The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom and so on and so forth. Wild Pink do this noble, 'poor me' tradition proud.
I had to listen to the whole album right the way though having heard that first fifteen seconds and being pretty certain immediately that I was in the hands of a bunch of people who know exactly what they were doing. Wild Pink didn't let me down for a moment. It's the most exciting slacker record I've heard for a long time. Here are a band who know when to turn things up and when to slow things down. The kind of people who realise that a lot of things in life seem pretty bad, but that music can always be very good.
Lead singer John Ross's voice is at the heart of things even though the musical accompaniment is skilful and nuanced and shifting throughout. But Ross's underplayed and undoubtedly vaguely depressed presence, expresses what this is all about. You can't often follow the narratives but the mood comes across loud and clear. His is the downbeat, dissatisfied and frankly bored pale white urban or suburban voice that goes back in the American literary, musical and film tradition to Catcher in the Rye. Make your own list of what comes after Holden Caulfield. Off the top of my head I'd throw in Jonathan Richman, Harold & Maud, The Feelies, Paul Westerberg, Wes Anderson, (well of course he's on my mind at the moment) The Wrens and Juno. A random list but I hope you recognise the general thread I'm talking about. Wild Pink slot right in.
The band's Spotify playlist of tour tunes is made up of something a bit more mainstream than the possible influences I mentioned above . It's all Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, George Harrison and The Waterboys. I can't say that I can hear the traces of these in Wild Pink myself but it seems clear from this playlist that they hope to chisel themselves a niche in the grand tradition of those who knew how to write songs. Hall is a thirty plus Florida native who makes his living from writing music for commercials but should really be doing this full time. This is a pretty solid start along the road to that.
As I said above, after hearing the first fifteen seconds of Wild Pink's opening track I wanted to listen through to the whole thing and that's what I did. It never once let me down. It's is a quite superb album, one of the favourite things I've heard this year and something I'll keep coming back to again and again over the coming months to unwrap fully it's sad but compelling set of clues.